Thursday, July 12, 2018

Life is Like a River

Last post, I mentioned a couple ways to look at our existence. Ways which had been brought home to me by spending time rollin’ on the river. This time, the post is especially entwined with the rivers and oceans of the world and of life. 

But to recap from last go round:

• We humans are part of something greater than ourselves. The planet, the solar system, and greater. We are, know it or not, cells living within unimaginably greater beings. Gaia – The Earth and the Solar system for which we have no name and beyond.

• Then, we have our own system of which we are “god” to trillions of cells and atoms. These cells and atoms are living beings, like ourselves at another turn of the spiral of life. 

If we dare imagine, every thing – all things – are alive. That may be a stretch for some. It is paradoxical since we have been so ingrained with the either/or of life and death.

Trying to put our worlds into perspective, I have come up with another way to look at things. I have borrowed the angle in part from modern physics.

You see, the physicists have been debating for decades whether light is a wave or a particle. I don’t think they have come to a conclusion. Because sometimes light acts as a wave and other times as particle.

Well, Robert has concluded that human beings are similar. Sometimes, we act and appear as particles. And other times, as waves.

This idea grew in my thinking while watching the Musselshell River roll by last summer as I sat on its banks most every day. 

We can think of the river, any river, or an ocean as a collection of drops or a flow of waves. Humans are like those drops and humanity like those waves. 

And within our form nature, we have all sorts of drops and particles and cells. And, they move in wave upon wave to maintain our existence.

At the deepest level of our beingness, those particles and cells are simply energy. While all these appear like matter to our eyes, all of us – atoms to cells to tissues to humans to planets and beyond – are really simply energy. Einstein and the quantum physicists established or re-established that truth decades ago.

If we could see the worlds as the Great Ones do, we would be thrilled to experience the intricacy, wonder and beauty of this universe in which we live. Even when we are standing still, we are – to those with eyes to see –  living, moving and changing constantly. Waves and particles of light within greater and greater ones.

If only we had the Eyes to See. Well, in the meantime, let us just draw on our imagination, the Inner Eye.

Then, we can all the wonder of it all to other great experiences On the Road Again and Again. Go God!

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Rollin' on the River

During my Year of Silence, some of my best company was supplied at the banks of the Musselshell River. When weather permitted, I walked daily to the stream to sit at the foot of nearby trees. Thence, I watched the river run through. When it was warm enough, I even sat in the current and enjoyed the soak.

Previously, my cross-country walks taught me that access to water in most any form can be a real luxury. Furthermore, the breadth of nature began to unfold before me. We are sometimes amazed with man-made feats, but the wonders of nature can leave us speechless.

A natural wonder I would like to comment on today is simply that we humans are vital parts of vast universes. For the moment, I will just suggest two universes now for your consideration drawing upon the benefit of analogies in line with the ancient dictum of As Above, So Below. 

• There is the one in which we are particles of much greater beings. Little do we recognize it as we separate and compartmentalize things, often distancing our selves - in daily focus - from those greater beings. It has been said that we are "Cells in the body of God." How true.

We often think our selves alone and unconnected simply because of our limited vision. If we only had better "eye sight," we would be both reassured and astonished at how we are united through light (subtle energies) with the whole of creation

• Then, there are the worlds in which we are the greater beings. That to our own cells, tissues and organs. To the cells in our little fingers, we are like gods.

Unfortunately, we often don't even recognize such a relationship. Thus, we mistreat and abuse our own subjects of which we are the royal overlord.

Sitting next to a rollin' river can provide time and opportunity to help put such things in perspective.

Next time, we can consider the greater River of Life.

Best regards to you. 

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Robert the Robot

In my last post, I commented about experiences with people following on my Year of Silence. I found them doing and saying the same things as they were many months, even years past. As if they were singing the same old song.

On further reflection, I have to admit that I have found Robert “singing” the same old song. I have told myself repeatedly, “You didn’t learn your lesson.”

Not long ago, I had made a vow to “Argue no more forever,” and find that I have in a few months broken it at least three times, depending on ...

Still, I will persist at trying to learn my lessons and some day be fully able to sing a new song.

Another reflection upon myself and others brings me to this point: I firmly believe that over the course of this lifetime - and also as the result of others - we create our own robots. They are our very selves. Our bodies, our actions, our feelings, and our thoughts have been programmed according to our past behaviors and involvements. We have been the programmers. Sometimes with the input of others - like family, friends, teachers, media, etc.

We act like computers and robots during much of our existence. We run on automatic far too often. At least, Robert the Robot does. 

Stimulus applied. Response sent out. 

Deprogramming and reprogramming are difficult tasks. It is hard to change the patterns we have set. Not impossible, but quite difficult.

I have been teaching myself to play the piano for over thirty years. A slow learner there, to be sure. But, I have found that very slowly, my practice has programmed into my body and being the ability to produce music. Sometimes quite sonorously.

The same sort of process, I believe, is involved in reprogramming our actions, feelings and thoughts. "Slow but sure wins the race."

Robert may be a Robot. But one day, he will be and express himself more clearly, cordially, and correctly. For his own good and for the betterment of all. I wish you the same in your days and lifetimes ahead.

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Old Dogs, New Tricks, and Lots of Cats

Years ago, I had the good fortune to act for nearly a year as interim pastor for two Congregational churches north of my hometown of Mitchell, SD. During that period, my companion was a dog named Henry on loan from my younger brother. Henry had gotten in trouble with the dogcatcher in Mitchell and I bailed the two out by bringing Henry to Letcher.

The dog and I became good friends and were seen regularly navigating in and around the small town. Inevitably, I decided that Henry needed to learn a few things my brother had never taken the time to teach the aging fellow. He was nearing 13 at the time. So, I the perennial teacher set to work on a regular basis to give Henry some lessons. At the same time, he taught me a few. 

Although it was not an easy task, my canine friend succeeded in learning to shake, crawl, and roll over with inducements of food and treats. His triumphs inclined me to consider a special sermon and bring Henry to church one Sunday and demonstrate that "Old dogs can learn new tricks."

For various reasons, the sermon never eventuated. But, I can definitely confirm that old dogs can learn. My Year of Silence reminded me of that experience. At the same time, it showed me that learning can be a chore at any age. But, I believe, we ought to be learning until our very last embodied days. Waste not, want not. There should be plenty of time to rest and recuperate on the other side.

Since taking up speaking again, a number of things have come to my attention of which I will now mention two. Firstly, when I have a conversation, I watch myself talking too much. Which will hopefully push me all the more to attend my words. Secondly, I have decided that people are saying the same things as they were a year or two or three ago. I admit I have done some of that myself.

That has suggested to me that we may be too often involved with old stories and "old tricks." One fellow I visited with in the grocery store is still dealing with a problem from 2 1/2 years past. He claims to be trying to find homes for the cats which belonged to his woman friend and neighbor. He is having little success, it seems. He now has around 60 cats. Surely, there were not that many when she died.

I think we should be dealing with new problems and opportunities, new tricks and new possibilities. As much as possible. Though we age, we do have some choices and options. Why not spend our time growing into the new instead of worrying about the old?

A later blog will continue in this vein in coming weeks. Hopefully sharing new ideas. 

Happy New Year.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Moments of Silence

As my 13 Months of Silence nears its end, I am reminded of my several months doing interim minister duties at the United Churches of Christ in Letcher and Loomis SD 30 years ago. 

That was a great experience. I only got one complaint during my stint as pastor. A few weeks into my time there, Harvey Fouberg representing the church council, buttonholed me and said something like, "Robert, you are doing well. The people like you and appreciate all your efforts. There is one problem, though. They don't like the Moments of Silence during the Sunday Service. They are too long.  Can you do something about that?" Well, I did. 

Silence seemed to be a problem then in the world. And maybe is more so now. 

But for me, the Year of Silence has been a good thing. I have learned a lot from my experience. I probably won't repeat it. But if I do, I will proceed a bit differently.

In any case, I will carry lessons of Silence with me. Working beyond just holding the tongue, but toward stilling other parts of myself.

Some people have antsy bodies - can't sit still. Others have feelings which go every which direction. Still others have minds which never quit.

The latter is my case to a lesser or greater degree. And, I intend to work more and more at Silencing the Mind. Then one day, I may be able to recognize that Voice of the Silence which is trying to get in touch with me. That small still Voice may be endeavoring to do the same with you.

Richard Hobday, author of The Healing Sun and a new internet friend, shared the following quote from Paramahansa Yogananda. He did so not knowing of my Silent Year. I pass it on to you.

"Through the portals of silence the healing sun of wisdom and peace will shine upon you."

Moments of Peace and Silence to You, Robert

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Monday, August 14, 2017

On the Road with Chief Joseph and JFK

If you know who Chief Joseph is, you might wonder about the combination of names in the title. But, maybe you don't know Chief Joseph. And, maybe you don't even know JFK.

You say, "Well, sure I know JFK. Everyone knows our 35th president."

Sorry, but that's not the one I have in mind. And, Chief Joseph was the now-famous Nez Perce who marched his tribe 1200 miles from Oregon territory to the border with Canada in 1877 hoping to escape wars and fighting and removal from ancestral lands. Sadly, his effort failed. His people were turned back to US property.

Fortunately for his tears and trouble, he left us with famous words of which my personal friend JFK reminded me many times over the years. His reminders came in his own stand to "Work no more, forever."

Which followed on Chief Joseph's immortal statement: "I will fight no more, forever."

I think Joseph lived up to his decree. JFK - James Francis Kinerk - failed. He went back to work at different times for a brother-in-law to pay bills until Social Security arrived. He, however, never returned to a regular insurance job.

All of this leads up to my own pronouncement coming on ten months of silence and contemplation: "To argue no more forever."

I hope I can live up to this stand like Chief Joseph. One of my reflections on the value of silence is that I have had only one argument since closing my mouth. That one occurred because people thought I was shunning them, jeopardizing them by my silence. It was a very brief moment which caused me to leave and "discuss" the situation by email. 

My Year of Silence was about me. Not about anybody else. It has taught me the value of less talk.

Saying less, valuing silence more, and that speaking if possible only to improve the silence should at least help to limit my ability and (some think) talent to get into arguments.

My cogitations have also reminded me that there is not much worth arguing about. That people believe what they believe because of who they are, where they have been, and the years of their experience. Argument rarely, rarely changes anyone. If anything it adds fuel to the fire. 

As a friend in Lavina used to say, "A woman convinced against her will is of the same opinion still." That truism fits men as well.

So, hold me to it. And, watch me hold my tongue - even though I will be speaking again soon. I will be much less verbal than in the past. And ...

"I will argue no more forever." 

Chief Joseph and James Francis Kinerk can be heard in the ethers saying, "AMEN."

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Silent Reading

Silent Teaching

The idea of a Year of Silence was hardly new to me when I began thinking to take it up, last year. The practice, although uncommon, is very old and widespread. Many monks and fakirs and yogis have gone through extended periods of silence over the ages. Layperson have spontaneously taken to the process. In recent times, Meher Baba, an Indian mystic of Persian descent, gave up talking for 44 years and became a leader and teacher of thousands in the second half of the last century. Some consider Meher Baba an avatar.

But what tripped the switch for me, besides gradually spending more time in meditation in recent years, was to read a book on the life of Apollonius of Tyana (first century AD). Following in a pattern set by the even greater sage, Pythagoras (c 570-500 BC), Apollonius eventually became a renowned teacher.

Students committed to the teachings of Pythagoras were expected to spend two to five years practicing silence. Philostratus says that Apollonius completed five years completely mute while learning “to maintain a conversation by the expression of his eyes, by gestures of hand and nodding his head.”

Through his disciplines, he was also able to say, “I understand all languages, though I never learnt one.”

Apollonius traveled Asia Minor and studied and taught with the elite of the times in many countries as far as India. Some thought he would die at the hands of Nero and others whom he threatened by his mere presence in a country. All that even though he never offered a political message, but rather taught truth as he had discovered it.

The passage of years in silence at an early age surely helped set the stage for his entry into deeper awareness and knowledge. Apollonius has been favorably compared with Jesus of Nazareth many times over the ages for his feats of casting out demons, healing the sick and performing so-called miracles. Apollonius is reputed to have lived past the age of 100 on a diet largely of vegetables, fruit and honey.

Silent Reading

The following books read during my Year of Silence come from more modern times than the ancient Greeks. You will see that they all are related to silence.

Planetwalker was written and lived by John Francis. Francis is a one-of-a-kind American who took to walking to make a statement about fossil fuels, oil spills and the like. Eventually, he added silence to his curriculum vitae as he began a long, long trek across the USA. Before returning to speech and using automotive transportation, Francis kept silence for 17 years and walked for 22 years. His tale is very engaging. But, he never explains how he paid his bills.

The Mountain of Silence is one of several books I have read by Kyriacos Markides, a sociology professor who teaches in the USA but hails from Cyprus. This book tells about the rejuvenation of Greek Orthodox religion through the work of Father Maximos in building monasteries and church communities on the island. Orthodox spirituality came to life for Markides and did for me as well. I recommend this book along with two others by the author: The Magus of Stravolos and Fire in the Heart. The latter are narratives on works of a modern-day Cypriot magician.

The Voice of the Silence by Oonagh Shanly-Toffolo attracted me because of the title and the subtitle: The Remarkable Story of Princess Diana’s Spiritual Guide. The author led a fine life and wrote a worthy book. But, the focus of Silence faded quickly as she left her work as a sister and nurse to marry and live in the ordinary world. She counseled Lady Diana after caring for the Duke of Windsor in his latter days. Oonagh revealed more about the latter than the former royal. The titling was a little misleading.

The Voice of the Silence by Helena Blavatsky is a wonderful little book translated from an ancient east Indian tongue. Though small, it is a book of great depth and reveals layers of meaning when read and re-read over the years. I highly recommend it for all who consider themselves on a spiritual path.

Spiritual Reading

Spiritual Reading relates to the work of meditation of which I have increasingly involved myself. I started forty-some years ago and now regularly spend two to three hours a day silently practicing meditation. I do not say I meditate. I am still practicing, but am making some progress.

One way to look at meditation is as listening for the small, still voice and/or endeavoring to perceive the “thoughts of God - the Higher Self.” Spiritual Reading is one of three aspects of inner work which I understand we all will be called to do one day. I thereby suggest that we all live many, many lifetimes.

Besides Spiritual Reading, we are also called to devotion to the Christ/Buddhic principle (called Ishvara in the East) and fiery aspiration which includes the call to serve others.

1) Spiritual Reading or Meditation.
2) Devotion to the Higher Self.
3) Fiery Aspiration which manifests in Service.

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